SPORTS>> Gwatney makes short work of foe
A solid performance on the mound by Stephen Swaggerty and consistent batting by the Chevy boys gave Jacksonville Gwatney Chevrolet a run-ruled win in the first-round junior American Legion zone tournament on Thursday. Gwatney handed Morrilton a 13-3 loss in five innings to advance to the second round of the winner’s bracket after waiting out a thunderstorm of nearly an hour before taking the field.
Morrilton threatened to make a game of it in the top of the third inning by tying things up after falling behind early 3-0, but Jacksonville answered in the bottom of the third inning with a five-run flurry that shifted all the momentum back in the Chevy boys’ corner.
Gwatney coach Bob Hickingbotham was pleased with Thursday’s effort, and seemed confident about his team’s chances deeper into the tournament.
“We hit really well,” Hickingbotham said. “We had a couple of guys get two hits, and (Jared) Toney had three. Swaggerty did a good job on the mound. He had a few bumps in the road, but other than that, he did a good job.
“We feel like we have four or five (pitchers) that can go. We plan on using as many as we can and as many as we have to.
Changing in this kind of ballgame is really beneficial to you. Not because the guy is not doing a good job out there, just to give them something different to think about for an inning or two, and that’s what you try to do, really. We’re proud of them, and whether it’s Conway or North Little Rock we have (Friday), we’re going to be ready to play.”
The Chevy boys proved ready to play from the start on Thursday. Swaggerty fanned two Morrilton batters to pitch around a single in the top of the first.
Gwatney leadoff man A.J. Allen set up the first Jacksonville run with a walk to start the bottom of the first, and advanced when Terrell Brown was struck with a pitch. Allen eventually scored on a bases-loaded walk to Patrick Castleberry, and Jared Toney brought in Brown with a single to make it 2-0.
Brown took it right on the helmet from Morrilton starting pitcher Miles Faulkner in the first, beginning a rough afternoon at the plate for the Gwatney shortstop. His next trip up in the second resulted in a shanked hit that ricocheted off the plate and hit his left shin.
He stayed in, though, and hit a sacrifice fly to center that plated Jeffrey Tillman, who was hit by a pitch to start the inning.
Morrilton rallied in the third. Swaggerty hit John Robertson with a pitch to put the first runner on, and a walk to McGhee had runners at first and second with one out. Second baseman Phillip Henderson brought both runners in on a single to right field, and he came in moments later on a Jacksonville fielding error to tie the score at 3.
But the Chevy boys blew the game out of the water with some outstanding hitting in the bottom of the third. Castleberry took his second walk of the game to lead off, and advanced on a single by Tommy Sanders. Toney plated Castleberry with a double, and Hayden Simpson singled to score Sanders to make it 5-3.
But Gwatney was just getting started. Tillman grounded a single to left to bring in Toney, and put the Chevy boys back to the top of their lineup with Allen.
Allen didn’t disappoint, sending another single into left to score Simpson to make it 7-3.
Brown doubled into left-center to bring in Tillman and Allen to extend the lead to six.
Gwatney needed four runs in the bottom of the fifth to go home early, and singles by Toney and Simpson to start out the frame set Tillman up to get the Chevy boys halfway there. Tillman singled down the left field line to score Simpson and Toney.
Kenny Cummings, on in place of Brown, got just one at bat but made it count with a ground single up the middle. A bases-loaded walk to Tommy Sanders plated another and Thurman ended the game with a single to second that scored Cummings for the final run.
Toney was 3 of 3 with a double, two RBI and two runs. Tillman was 2 of 2 with five RBI and three runs, and Simpson went 2 of 3 with a RBI and two runs.